Editorial: How Community Has Changed Me

TV’s most playful show, tailor-made for the creative 18-35 demographic, just had its visionary kicked off the team for what will likely be the show’s final season. Community is moving on without creator/show-runner/mad genius Dan Harmon (pictured above).

For three seasons, Community has hosted paintball fights, secret trampoline gardens, dungeons & dragons enactments, Kentucky-fried space shuttle simulators, two pillow forts and so much more at the show’s fictional Greendale Community College. The show’s imagination has in turn helped me and so many other creative, geeky millennials explore our own roles at college.

This was the only show that moved me to develop and explore my own identity. By cutting into Dan Harmon’s four-season vision, Sony Pictures Television took away the resolution of character development he had been steadily building towards and negated what could have been the show’s final impact.

The characters Troy and Abed inspired me to look for play at every opportunity. In April, they had a pillow fight. Two days later, I hosted one with a hundred people in Washington Square (video below). For Halloween, I not only dressed up as Evil Abed, wearing felt goatee and button down sweater (from “Critical Film Studies, S2E19”), but acted like him too, attempting to recreate scenes from his favorite TV show, Cougartown. The transformation started off slow. “Cool cool cool” meant yes. “You’re the AT&T of people, the pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth, the opposite of Batman” became my go-to insult.

Abed, socially removed and characterizing his friends through TV tropes and pop culture references, helped shape the way I view media and stories. I practiced thinking, speaking, acting like Abed, Troy and Jeff, discovering myself in Dan Harmon’s characters. As I grew closer to my own seven closest friends of college, the lessons dealt out in Community spilled over into real life.

As Abed became more self-actualized, so did I. He went from seeing the world through media-tinted lenses, to involving himself in it, and ultimately attempting to create the world he desired. By season three, he had built a dreamatorium for rendering imaginative dreamscapes, where he could write alternate realities for his life’s direction. Following the news of Dan Harmon’s firing, I built my own dreamatorium (pictured below, right) to imagine a timeline in which Community ended as originally intended. In the thirty minutes I spent inside earlier today, I felt closer.

Ari's homemade "dreamatorium"

Thousands of fans as passionate as myself have for the first time participated with and created communities around their television. It’s a show made for an Internet audience, made before the networks figured how to monetize the Internet audience. So fans have constantly had to fight for it. When it went on hiatus back in December, I joined in on a national public outcry, singing the theme song in front of the Comcast Center, one of its advertisers. What other sitcom inspires that?

On a speaking tour, Joel McHale asked the audience how many people watched Community? 40. How many owned TV’s? 5. How many people watched Community on their TV as opposed to the internet? Only 1. Hulu, the official network video website, rated it 2011’s best comedy. It also won the 2011 fan choice TV Guide front cover. These are the results of a more active web presence on Twitter and reddit than any other TV show. Other rants have covered the facts that led to Dan Harmon’s dismissal; ultimately, his overarching problem was that the show had poor ratings on TV despite its rabid, emotional fan base.

With Harmon gone, so are writers McKenna and the Russo brothers, along with executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan. Kicking off the lead writer and sole visionary of the show means Community will never get the proper ending it deserves. It’d be like replacing Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight Rises, or telling J.K. Rolling to hand over the rights to the seventh Harry Potter book.

Sony has renewed the show, but cut its life-force. The show that taught me so much about storytelling, about comedy, about friendship, is now left to rot in an empty hole until it can be syndicated.

I’ve never cried at the news of a TV show losing a member of its writing team, but this news has broken me.

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